THE MIRACLE MATCH (aka THE GAME OF THEIR LIVES)
Most Inspirational Film, 2005 - 3 stars
Great Team Good Film, But Underfinanced by Studio
The same filmmakers who gave us Rudy and Hoosiers - two outstanding sports films that set the standard for many that followed - were forced to play it safe in this one, due to disagreements with studio executives. The original budget of $65 M was whittled down to $27 M, causing the running time of 130 minutes to be shortened to 101. Scriptwriter Angelo Pizzo, who based his story on the book by Geoffrey Douglas, says that only 45-50% of what he intended to be in the film made it to the final cut. Scenes like Frank “Pee Wee” Wallace as a German POW, and an emotional scene of the players looking up the records of their ancestors on Ellis Island, were dropped. Those were scenes that would have given the characters more depth and made the story more interesting. Instead, we are left with a predictably formulaic sports film about an underdog American soccer team beating the inventors of the sport, Great Britain, in the 1950 Olympic Games. Period. While interesting and likable, it leaves much to be desired as far as drama.
I didn’t like the way everything had to be explained by the narrator, reporter Dent McSkimming, played by Patrick Stewart. Perhaps the scenes that would have explained things were part of the film that was cut, and that was the only option left to the filmmakers. I liked Gerard Butler as goalie Frank Borghi, the star of the team, and the player who had been most decorated in WWII; but it wasn’t one of his stronger roles. He had plenty to do on the field, but not that much dramatically off. Wes Bentley as Walter Bahr, Jay Rodan as Pee Wee Wallace, Gavin Rossdale as Brit Stanley Mortensen, Costas Mandylor as Charlie “Gloves” Columbo, Louis Mandylor as Gino Pariani, Zachery Ty Bryan as Harry Keough, and especially Jimmy Jean-Louis as Joe Gaetjens were all good. These were good actors playing good characters. It is a shame the studio didn’t allow them to show their stuff more.
This is a very likable film that was cheated by the studio. My only hope is that one day someone will finance a director’s cut version so we can see what we missed, though that is highly unlikely since I don't think those extra scenes were even shot. If that were to happen, it might turn out that this actually was a great film, worthy of the company of Rudy and Hoosiers.
By the way: the DVD contains no extras - not one. When was the last time that occurred? So the filmmakers weren't the only ones that were cheated by the studio.
Waitsel Smith, February 6, 2007
Text © 2007 Waitsel Smith. Image © 2005 Buena Vista Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.
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